With Jose Mourinho’s baffling decision to bench Juan Mata because…well…he felt like it, has left Mata grasping at anything to prove he belongs.
“I can play as a No10, or on the wing” said Mata. “I will play wherever he demands. I can improve. I want to do the same job I did in the last two seasons.
“My dad always said to me that if you are left-footed, then improve with your right foot. I know that I have to improve defensively. And I have tried throughout my career to improve. Jose can help me to achieve that. Last season was the best of my career, but I could still have done better. I focus on what I have to do.”
Clearly the Spaniard has the right attitude about the situation, but it’s tough to watch Mourinho break Mata down and force him to beg for his spot back.
He added how special it’s been to hear both fans and players alike voice their support for his cause.
“The other night against Basel I got emotional when I went to warm up and all the stands were cheering me” said the 25-year-old. “That is what I try to keep in mind. I like to play well, score and do great things for them, because they’re the most important.
“People have come up to me in the street and said nice things, and it is good to feel people are behind you. In the dressing room we are friends. All of them are saying, ‘Be patient, be calm, we know how good you are’. And that’s very important. I feel really loved, so I am just doing what I know I have to do. And that is be professional, respect everyone, and simply keep going.”
As last season’s assist leader in the Premier League, Mata’s exclusion has certainly caused many to turn their heads. Mourinho’s insistence on crafting the team into his own has taken casualties, and it appears Mata is at the forefront of the sacrifice.
Will he leave in the winter if he does not “win” his place back? Possibly. But you can be certain the rumors will fly.